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Accountability Archives - Volano Solutions

Real-Time Tracking & Reporting from the Field

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Volano was very fortunate this year to help two companies, Hunt Electric and Miller Electric, as they teamed up for the construction of a multi-phased million square foot data center. They were challenged with scaling their proven processes to a project this size and decided to leverage software to overcome this hurdle.

Volano created an end-to-end solution building both a reporting & management portal for the office as well as a mobile app that works together in real-time providing the communication and insight necessary for the successful installation of the electrical systems.

“Volano listened to the challenges we were up against and built us that solution. Their role in creating a mobile app for more efficient reporting helped our communication and process tremendously.” – John Lepak, Project Manager | HUNT ELECTRIC

Download the Volano Success Study for Hunt and Miller Electric (7 downloads)

Work Management Is Not Task Management

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You often hear of people complaining they need a better task management system. That’s why there are so many different apps for task management. But who needs an app for something that is relatively easy to manage with a good, old fashioned pen and paper?

Work management, however, is where people generally need help, but most don’t know the difference between managing tasks and managing work. There are so many differences that we’re going to cover the similarities first, of which there are two.

With both work management and task management, you have something to do and after you take care of it, you check it off the list.

Those two instances are the only similarities between work management and task management. Since work management tends to be a bit more involved, we will delve into its key features.

Steps

Work is always part of a multi-step process. In order to begin managing your work, you need to determine the steps and where they fall in the workflow. You also need to define who is responsible for each step.

Fields

Pertinent and ancillary information associated with your work will fall into fields. The information in these fields can range from contact information to the date a contract was signed. You define what type of data will be stored in the fields, including: text, numbers, web addresses, geo-coordinates, pick lists, or anything else you can think of.  We have found that many times, particular fields are filled in by the people responsible of certain steps.

Work Queues

Work queues foster the accountability we talk so much about.  They allow people to see what they need to work on and in what order. How does work end up in a particular queue? It can either be directly assigned to a person or can appear based on which team they are assigned to. For example, all of the work in step 1 is directly added to each team member’s queue. Pretty nifty, huh?

History

Having a history of work completed is essential to good work management. It brings the transparency necessary to know where the bottlenecks are in your process or to answer your clients when they ask, “what’s taking so long?”  It would be short-sighted to not keep a running history of who worked on what and when.

Reporting

The purpose of capturing fields, tracking steps and recording all other detailed information is to be able to produce reports. Reports are essential for both a high-level and micro-level view of the work. At a high-level, it is important to ensure nothing is falling through the cracks. On a micro-level, you need to be able to answer the questions of who, why and when for each aspect of the work.

Over the past 9 years, we have focused on architecting and implementing custom software that helps businesses manage their work, allowing it to flow through their unique processes.

What Does a Successful Project Look Like at Volano?

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There are a lot of components that define the success of a project. Most would use budget and timeline to define the success or failure of a project. However, if the project is completed on time and under budget, but the product of the project isn’t optimal, that can hardly be called a success. So, we think it’s important for our clients and prospective clients to understand how we define a successful project.

Complete or Complete Success?

Everyone defines a successful project differently. Beyond that, successful project management doesn’t always necessarily mean project success. An author at the International Project Leadership Academy classified common definitions into five tiers:

  • Tier 1 – The project was a success if it delivers all or most of what it said it would (the scope), regardless of schedule or budget performance.
  • Tier 2 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule and/or within the agreed budget.
  • Tier 3 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule, within the agreed budget and to the expected quality standards.
  • Tier 4 – The project was a success if it delivers on all agreed project objectives, be they scope, schedule, budget, quality or outcomes based (i.e. goals to be achieved or strategic positions to be attained).
  • Tier 5 – The project was a success if the product produced by the project creates significant net value for the organization after the project is completed.

Communication is Key

It’s a lot right? Because there are so many different definitions of success, it’s important to have an open dialogue with clients about what the success of every project looks like. When you’re on the same page from start to finish, expectations can be communicated and met at every step. I know what you’re thinking, Shouldn’t this all be mapped out in the initial contract or scope of work? Well yes, but there aren’t too many projects that go exactly to plan and sometimes that’s for the best. And since we know to expect it, we can communicate it.

Our Client Relationships Are Never Complete

Not only are there many different definitions of success, there are different perspectives. A project can be deemed a complete success, but then a few months down the road things start to look quite different. Let’s assume we’re talking about custom software to fix a pain point. The software development project might stay on budget, get done ahead of the deadline and do exactly what it was designed to do. However, after some time, it becomes apparent that no one is using the software, they don’t know how, they don’t have the time to learn the new process and keep up with business, etc.. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, that’s not a successful project.

All of this is to say, we actually don’t define what a successful project looks like. Instead, we work with clients to flesh out what their definition of a given project is. After all, it’s theirs -their software, their investment, their solution. Let’s talk about what this all means to you and your organization.

 

The Power to Act: Accountability Part Two of a Four Part Series

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In case you missed it, last week we published an article defining the Power to ACT and what it means to us here at Volano. Click here to check it out. This week we’re diving into “Accountability” and what it looks like as a holistic part of a culture and workflow.

Accountability

Lack of accountability in an organization can be fatal in business. Without a culture of accountability, leaders get weighed down and forced into micromanaging. If they’re stuck looking over shoulders and picking up slack, how is anything supposed to actually get done? Lack of accountability holds an organization in maintenance mode and makes growth nearly impossible.

The idea of a culture of accountability is rather vague though, right? People doing what they’re supposed to do. If you’re a leader, you want to know how to take action. How is accountability infused into a culture and what systems are used to foster and maintain a culture of accountability? So, we like to show people what accountability looks like in action, through the work of one of our favorite clients, Planet Water.

A number of years ago Volano was lucky enough to be introduced to Mark Steele. Mark is our kind of guy, he’s entrepreneuric, he has a grand vision, and he’s interested in the greater good.  Mark runs a foundation called Planet Water and their mission is making sustainable clean water in developing areas around the world readily available.

The Planet Water organization builds sustainable clean water towers around the world. They have their system down. They can install a tower in as little as one day on-site. Impressive right? But the trick is to ensure that all the components are staged and ready when the volunteer team shows up in a remote Indian village. Organizing, managing, and orchestrating these efforts around the world was causing Mark to lose sleep. One missed step means the mission is off track in a big way. The impact of roadblocks in an effort like this are felt deeper, and carry more weight than your average workflow snag.

Volano worked with Mark to find a solid, dependable solution. We collaborated with him to create a workflow that made the organization, management, and orchestration seamless.  Accountability became part of the system. All tasks, team members, and their status became visible. Mark now has peace of mind knowing that all the “nuts-and-bolts” have been handled.  That ‘mental weight’ has been lifted and now Mark can invest his full energy into the Planet Water mission…not ‘nuts-and-bolts’.

When organizations embrace a culture of accountability and use the tools necessary to enforce it, the aggravation of micromanaging expectations is gone, teams move forward seamlessly, expectations are clear, efficiency increases and things get done -towers get built. For details on our work with Planet Water, click here for the case study. Please also tune into the Volano blog next week when we dive into Collaboration.

The Need for Strong Workflow Management Increases Over the Holidays

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‘Tis the season to be undermanned. The holidays are hectic for everyone, both personally and professionally. Even if the end of the year happens to be a slow time in your particular industry, there is always work to be done, an opportunity to catch up, or even get ahead (who are we kidding with that last one?). None of that happens though because our lives get down right hectic this time of year. People need to take time off to travel or host guests from out of town, or do the unthinkable and carve time out just to be with their loved ones.

Requests are pouring in for PTO days or work from home time. Although stressful, your employees earned that time or that flexibility. With strong workflow management, everyone can get what they want this holiday season, and business doesn’t have to suffer.

Take Inventory

Perhaps more than any other time of year, you need to know exactly where you stand with deliverables and projects in a prioritized fashion. The Monday before Christmas isn’t when you want to find out you’re behind on a deadline. Firstly, productivity slows down during the holidays and secondly, there are fewer hands on deck, and you’re likely working with a short week. Strong workflow management is essential to ensure nothing falls through the cracks during the holidays.

If you’re like most organizations, you’ve tried about 342 different project management softwares and either couldn’t get employees on board, or the software simply didn’t work for your organization and the established workflow processes within it. Tailored, customizable workflow management software is the solution. Invest in software that your people will actually use, software that does what it says it does, manage work!

Plan Ahead

Now that you know where you stand, you can be transparent with your team about needs and work together to see that they are met. If we can get A, B and C to stage D, then we’re golden. If we can’t, these will be the expectations… It really can be that simple, the problem is that leaders are more often than not, out of the loop with the status of what needs to be done. That’s when you end up with a fully staffed office on Christmas Eve, although a few people would have been adequate. And now everyone hates your guts.   

Offer Structured Remote Work Opportunities

We know why so many leaders aren’t willing to offer remote work or flex work opportunities; they believe they’ll be taken advantage of and communication will suffer. Actually, that is completely the case, unless you have the right workflow management tools. Flex and remote work opportunities are one of the most favored employee incentives you can offer, but without the assurance and proof that work is getting done, employers aren’t willing to let that power go. When a team leader is offered a virtual bird’s eye view on every stage of every workflow, they can let go of that fear, and instead embrace accountability and transparency.

What would you need to see and be in control of to offer an incentive like work from home days, or flex hours? Whatever it is, I’m betting we can make it happen. We create customized software that can track and report on, well, just about anything. Let us help you get through the chaos. Call today 402-943-3733

The ROI of Information Management

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When employees constantly have to sift through resources, dig to find passwords and find the right person to grant them access to information, it’s more than just an annoyance, it’s a serious waste of company resources. There is a surprisingly high cost associated with the mismanagement of information and resources.

A McKinsey study revealed the average worker spends 1.8 hours each day searching and gathering information. That’s insane, right? One fifth of your payroll is paying for information mismanagement. This is a problem.

Email is a Culprit

Another McKinsey 2012 study reported office workers spend about 2.6 hours per day reading and answering emails. A large portion of that time is dedicated to searching email. You’ve done it, scoured through several emails to find one little snippet of information that likely should have been captured and stored in a centralized, easily retrievable place. Email is not a tool to store or organize information and it certainly can’t take the place of a project management system. It just wasn’t built for that, yet, we continue to waste time and search.

Lack of Accountability is a Culprit

Email doesn’t provide the environment where accountability thrives.  Here’s a scenario: Your sales guy just won a new deal and a week later the client calls him up to ask for the delivery date to be a week sooner.  The salesperson says sure and later emails the operations manager and cc’s the project manager to let them know this.  That operations manager forwards the email to a few supervisors which end in the abyss that is the email server.

A few weeks later the client calls the account manager and asks where we’re at on the delivery.  The account manager has no idea that the delivery date was pushed up a week.  They can’t reply to the customer with any confidence if the order will be on time.  They need to “research the answer”.  They need to find who may have taken accountability for this because expectations were not clearly defined.

This process happens in different ways and scenarios all the time because there is no explicit accountability in everyday processes.

Take a moment and think about what your work day would be like if you had all the information you needed, without roadblocks. Obviously, there will be external hold ups no matter what you do, but what if everything internally were to flow exactly like it was supposed to? The correct information was in the right place, expectations were defined and explicit, and accountability of for each step of the process in this wonderland workplace was built in.

We help businesses find their workflow wonderland. We create software that makes work flow the way it’s supposed to. Find out how to get more work done now.

How to Keep the 20% of Customers that Generate 80% of Your Business

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While there are many pieces to this customer retention puzzle, today we’ll focus on operations. Obviously, you still have to give ‘em the ol’ razzle dazzle with fantastic customer service but for the most part, this sale is won. The 20% of customers that generate 80% of your business are your recurring revenue stream (the ones you can’t afford to lose). So, let’s talk about how to retain these precious few with a flawless operations workflow.

Work Queues

How many times have you experienced operations delays because information was passed along via the telephone game? How many times has an operations process come to a halt because no one was there to take over at the next step? The worst part of these all too familiar scenarios is that no one is held accountable, because no one has been made accountable. Furthermore, your 20% doesn’t really care who’s accountable; all they know is they don’t have their order.  

Every operations department, or group of departments, should have automated work queues. The idea is that with every step of a process, the right person is notified of their expected action. Going further, these work queues should include all information needed to carry out the action, as well as a timeline for the process. Once one step of the process is complete, the next queue is triggered.

Automated work queues don’t forget to pass along information and they don’t give vague instructions. Work queues let employees know what is expected of them and what they are accountable for, making it easier for them to deliver.

Transparent Workflows

At Volano, we probably overuse the word transparency but with good reason. Firstly, transparency in operations specifically, grants each moving part a bird’s eye view of the whole process, increasing accountability and virtually eliminating bottlenecks and those wretched cracks that things are always falling through.

Secondly, and just as importantly, transparency creates context and where there is context, there is engagement. When a person knows how their efforts tie into the big picture, a sense of ownership occurs. It’s leadership 101 –engaged employees make happy customers. Engaged employees by definition are invested in the goals of the organization. If your goal is to retain your 20%, it’s your employees’ goal too.

Repeatable Processes

Transparency and automated work queues sound awesome, but they are part of a bigger workflow solution -repeatable processes and business rules. Establishing these rules and processes will take some trial and error, but they are 100% worth it. A customer can feel every pain point in your operations process -every time they get a product in the wrong color or size, every time their order is shipped 3 weeks after purchase, every time they can’t get someone on the phone. Tailoring and fine tuning your repeatable processes means a consistently positive experience for your customers, leading to their retention.  

Not very surprisingly, we found that operations failures aren’t caused by laziness or lack of attention, but rather ineffective processes. Please don’t be fooled by the current loyalty of your 20%. If they aren’t looking for a better product, service or solution now, they will be. Unless you work at improving your operations, they’ll find it. Their loyalty to you depends on your investment in their retention. Let’s talk about customer retention now.

What fell through the cracks?

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Sometimes when things fall through the cracks, it’s a huge problem. This article does an excellent job of illustrating what a classic bad system is. It was published a year ago and I’m betting it is still a problem today.

It could be better!
Volano could have built an amazing database system for the problem described above. We’ve built 100+ applications that track everything from lawn mowers (manufacturing) to medical records (government sub-contracting.) We align best with those that can use software as their competitive advantage…and where losing assets is not an option. Both web applications and mobile apps with a heavy database component.

Custom software development as a competitive advantage
If your work is falling through the cracks, we can help. Perhaps it is growing pains or maybe it is 13 year old systemic problem. Either way it very likely means you need workflow software. A software program that keeps track of your work and brings clarity and accountability to your business processes. At Volano Solutions we build ‘Software to Make Work Flow.’

Knowing Expectations with Workflow

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In the early 1990s Gallup started to collection data and analyze the correlation between employee performance and various aspects of work life. They discovered that employees who knew what was expected of them at work were the most likely to be in productive teams. When employees answered negatively or even ambivalently, the lack of job clarity often gummed up production.

Two years ago, Volano had the privilege to be part of Gallup’s EAS program and it was there that Rod and I learned about the Q12 employee questionnaire and just how important setting expectations is for employee engagement. Gallup’s research tied in completely with a concept we started formalizing and implementing in 2009 as part of our custom software: Work Queues.

Work Queues are the home page of your workflow. They are lists of the work you or your team are responsible for. These queues are shown to you immediately when you sign into the application and provide navigation directly to the area of the application where you can complete the task you’re responsible for.

This creates an excellent work environment for the employees who want to be effective – the employees you make sure you keep.